Washington (CNN) - Two years into the current recession, Americans don't see economic conditions getting better any time soon, and the steady growth in optimism that previous polls measured throughout the year appears to have stalled, according to a new national poll.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 34 percent of those questioned say that things are going well in the country today. That's 14 points higher than a year ago, but a dip of 3 points since November.
"This the first time in Barack Obama's presidency that this number has gone down," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
According to the survey, 39 percent of the respondents say the country's still in a downturn, up 6 points from last month. Nearly half of those questioned say the economy has stabilized and a small minority, 15 percent, think the country is starting to recover.
"The recession has hit blue-collar families the hardest," Holland said. "More than half of whites who never attended college say economic conditions are still in a downturn. Most whites who attended college say things have stabilized or are starting to get better."
The poll's release comes hours before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest and most prestigious think-tanks in Washington.
It's clear why Obama is again addressing the economy: Although more U.S. troops are headed to Afghanistan and the Senate is debating health care, most Americans continue to say that the economy is the most important issue for them. Four in ten say the economy is their top concern; 17 percent cited health care and 16 percent say that Afghanistan and Iraq are the country's biggest problems.
According to the poll, 84 percent of those questioned say the economy is still in a recession, with 36 percent saying it's a serious one and another 35 percent calling it a moderate one.
What about the chances of the recession turning into another Great Depression?
"Forty-three percent say that might happen in the next 12 months, slightly higher than the number who worried about a Depression a year ago," added Holland.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 2-3, with 1,041 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent for the overall sample.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.